One. Point. Nine. Trillion. Dollars.
In the words of President Joe Biden, the American Rescue Plan he recently signed into law is “a big f—ing deal” for U.S. students, their families, and their school communities.
As an organization focused on the question, “How are the children?” we’re thrilled to see $123 billion allocated to K-12 education and direct childhood allowance checks that will lift 27 million children out of poverty—a 50% reduction in U.S. child poverty in the next year alone, per the Washington Post. Those are just some of the provisions in the stimulus package Biden’s administration will soon be hitting the road to sell to the public as we pull out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Is New and It’s Big. Like, Really, Really Big.
We don’t really have precedent for the influx of cash that’s about to hit school districts around the nation. This is not just some petty cash to give schools proper protective equipment and vaccine doses to safely reopen as we knock out the rest of the pandemic.
It’s basically like putting an addition on every house in the neighborhood, but it’s going directly to the neighborhood’s community education needs.
The closest thing we’ve ever seen to this, Bellwether’s Andrew Rotherham writes, was President Barack Obama’s 2009 Great Recession stimulus, which implemented education programs like Race to the Top—an imperfect but helpful model for new, more impactful programs to help kids now. We saw some wins for kids’ academic achievement and family autonomy over the last decade, but these wins were incremental at best. This time, the child-focused funding is in a different universe compared to Obama’s $787 billion stimulus.
So, yes, it’s an enormous win in itself to see the federal government refocus its financial might on supporting families—and fostering better social determinants of health for children in the process.
But simply getting a financial commitment from the federal government does not mean the money will be spent in equitable ways that help all students. Implementation is where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you come in.
How Does Your Family Want This Money Spent?
We have to do better than we did in 2009. Period. And now, here’s our chance. It’s law. The money’s on its way, and we must seize this opportunity to create a better childhood for the kids who just lost a year (and likely so much more) to this virus. Organizations like ExcelInEd have released helpful priority guides for where some of this stimulus money could be spent to increase childhood academic achievement and create healthier kids.
But we nerdy policy and writer types don’t have the answers for you and your kids. You do. What are the problems in your school community that need to be fixed? Which communities aren’t being served properly? Which communities need new schools entirely? Who’s changing the game for kids in your area and how can we get in touch with them?
We gotta spread their leadership, which we can do through publishing their thoughts across the brightbeam network of education sites, inviting them to guest on our Citizen Ed Facebook Live broadcasts, and writing petitions with their input on our activism sister site Voice to Action.
But also, what are the helpful solutions you’ve seen in your school that could be implemented elsewhere? What are the tips and “weird tricks” and principles that help your kids thrive? Share them with us and let’s build a more just world for children, together.